Rough Going

I remember a loud cracking sound, and I remember the feeling of my foot bending in a way it shouldn’t be expected to. I remember realising what was happening as I fell into the newly dug and uncovered fence post hole. The front half of my foot had almost made it over, another inch and I might not have even known the danger.


Earlier in the 2015 I had offered a young girl the opportunity to try endurance, riding my then 5 year old Arab Connemara mare, Ardair Skoda. The two of them got along very well and they came along so nicely in training that we planned for them to start in their first 40km at Rockybar, where I planned to do my next 80km with the new horse we had in training.

Haze went home on the 28th of March. I was heartbroken, but I knew that it was just too easy to keep riding the seasoned horse while the young ones stayed fat in the paddock so I had to remove the temptation. It isn’t like I would never see Haze again, he would be at Rockybar in preparation for the 50th Tom Quilty later in the year.

We had gotten into the year with one hell of a swing, things were going pretty damn well! I was two rides through novice, Jas had made it through her first 80km completion at Cooyar, Adriana had made a brave call on Sally at the ride and I couldn’t imagine a better outcome – the future was looking bright! Little did I know that things were going to come crashing down around my ears in a short space of time.

On the 29th of March, my friend brought me her big mare to bring back into work for her to ride. During the night I heard a bit of a commotion down at the paddock, so I grabbed my little torch, slipped into my flip flops and went for a walk down to check on the new mare. When I got to the lane I walked along with my torch up at eye level, searching the long grass for the three mares that were in the front paddock. I wasn’t worried, what ever the cafuffle was about had clearly passed but I did wonder where they had got to. I was blissfully unaware of what was about to happen.

I remember a loud cracking sound, and I remember the feeling of my foot bending in a way it shouldn’t be expected to. I remember realising what was happening as I fell into the newly dug and uncovered fence post hole. The front half of my foot had almost made it over, another inch and I might not have even known the danger.

I don’t remember screaming but apparently I did because Spencer found me very quickly and managed to get me to the hospital. There was several hours of waiting despite the fact that the waiting room was empty, only to find out that it would not be possible to get x-rays done until the following day (gee, they don’t have an x-ray operator around at 11.30pm and it took two hours to say so?) So after I was finally given a decent pain killer I was sent home with a note to return for an x-ray in the morning – I knew what came after that and it was not going to happen and that was flat.

Told you I wasn’t joking, mister plaster tech dude..!

I don’t like plaster casts. When I broke my shoulder in a riding accident as a 15 year old I developed a permanent aversion to them and consider them tools of torture. I would not wear a cast again. I even said I would cut it off as soon as I got home to the plaster technician as he wrapped my foot in a backslab. He must have thought I was joking because he laughed and said I wouldn’t as he merrily went about his business, telling me what an art plastering was. I have no doubt it is an art, I’m sure it is to those interested in such art – I am not one of those people however and it was off before the plaster was even cold, let alone dry!

I’m sure there are many people reading this and thinking I was crazy, so let me assure you. Being that I am an active person and an avid rider, my dear friends who are involved in the world of orthopedics, helped and guided me through the process as I could never have imagined. Thanks to their help and expertise, I was in fact back in the saddle for Rockybar, though not for the 80km as I’d hoped.

Adriana had managed to get Milton ready to do a 40km at the ride, Koda was ready to go with her young rider and as I had not been able to ride for weeks Adriana had organised for an acquaintance of hers to ride Sally along with them. Unfortunately, when we arrived we found out Sally’s rider was not coming.

It seemed a waste to have trained her up and traveled her to the ride only for her not to do it. So I decided I would do it myself! 40kms after not riding for six weeks? Piece of cake!

On track, Rockybar!

Thankfully, Sally is a very smooth ride, I could sit to her trot for most of the distance and her canter is wonderful too so the impact of my broken foot was minimal. Sally was also much more settled than she had been at Cooyar so we did manage to have a very good ride! At least, up until Koda and Sally decided to have a go at one another, that is… Their kicks met in mid air and I’m not even sure if Koda got much of it, at the time we didn’t think Sally had as she settled back down and charged on. But when we got to the last water trough roughly three kilometres from ride base, something didn’t feel right. We had stood still at the trough for just a few minutes but it was enough to bring out a stiffness and I felt Sally’s stride wasn’t quite right for a short stretch until she warmed back up.

We came back into base slowly and strapped. Sally’s heart rate dropped nicely but I could see now that she was cooled off that her usually high step was lagging and my heart sank as I knew she was lame. Here came my first vet out, but at least it wasn’t a surprise one.

The TPR took Sal’s heart rate at 44 and I watched as Koda and Milton were vetted in along side us, then walked slowly over to the waiting vet who smiled and asked how we had gone. I told her the truth, my little mare was lame. She smiled again and asked what had happened and why I thought Sal was lame as she went through her parameter checks and I told her about the on-track biff between my two crazy mares.

“Well, lets just give her a little trot out to be sure!” Ingrid said, so I jogged a few meters with my little perlino high stepping beside me until I decided we’d showed that clear-as-day head bob enough. I turned around and walked Sally back and Ingrid gave her a pat as we left the ring – vetting out doesn’t hurt as much when you know it’s coming, but it still isn’t a nice feeling. Thankfully Sal was as sound as a bell within the week.

Adriana and Erin, on track at Rockybar

On the up side, Koda and her rider, along with Milton and Adriana, all vetted through successfully and with good heart rates. Koda apparently was no worse for wear after the kick-fest. I shouldn’t be surprised I suppose. She’s one of “those” horses – you know, those ones that can walk through a tensioned 5 strand barbed wire fence without moving a hair? Those ones that can gallop through a paddock full of mines and not land on a single one. Nine lives, that one… Unlike myself who falls in random holes in the driveway in the dark!

But I was back on my horses, I could ride again. The rough going seemed to be gone – next stop? Well, we were going back to Blackbutt!

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